Byline: Cathy Hawker
FOR many, mention of the Caribbean summons images of rum bars and palm-fringed beaches --and while the Bahamas has plenty of both, its 700 islands are also full of surprises. Both geographically and culturally the Bahamas are closer to Florida than to the Caribbean, nowhere more so than New Providence, home to the capital, Nassau, and two thirds of the Bahamian population.
Live there and you can access Robinson Crusoe islands by boat but on your doorstep are designer boutiques, the showy 2,300-room Atlantis Hotel and the highest-grossing Nobu restaurant in the world.
Little wonder, then, that the international airport at Nassau, with direct access from London, is packed with private jets. This is a destination of choice for multimillionaire Americans who want casinos and super yachts with their soft sand beaches. It's also attracting some British higher-rate taxpayers facing rises this April. Residents who own property valued over [pounds sterling]318,900 pay no capital gains, inheritance or income tax.
THE SWING'S THE THING The rich and famous have been coming for decades. Lyford Cay was the first private residential resort, begun in the Fifties on a series of man-made canals. The 380 houses range from relatively modest bungalows at about [pounds sterling]1.9 million to sizeable mansions for tens of millions, all set in manicured gardens and often with a rather grand boat out back. Residents, such as Sean Connery, value privacy highly. Licence To Kill was filmed among the islands.
Another estate is Old Fort Bay, now selling quarter-acre plots for [pounds sterling]414,600. And a new name is being added -- Albany. It's an ambitious development by Tavistock Group -- owned by British-born Joe Lewis, current owner of Spurs -- with golf professionals Ernie Els and Tiger Woods.
On 565 acres on the south-west coast, they plan to create a top-end golf and marina resort with 375 homes and a boutique hotel. The setting has already featured on film: this is where Daniel Craig emerged from the surf as James Bond in Casino Royale in 2006.
CABANA OR COLONIAL? Albany opens in September with a golf course designed by Els, a 71-berth deepwater marina, a 15,000 sq ft gym, a spa and equestrian centre, pools, restaurants and bars. If you want a pool cabana with plasma screen TV, or a children's water park, this is the place for you.
Plots are from [pounds sterling]956,700, while 7,000 sq ft, four-floor "cottages" by the beach are [pounds sterling]2. …